Denali, Ongtupqa and other Native American names for landmarks President Barack Obama on Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015 said he's changing the name of the tallest mountain in North America from Mount McKinley to Denali. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)
Denali, Ongtupqa and other Native American names for landmarks
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Since 1917, the tallest mountain in North America has been known as "Mount McKinley" on official maps and registers. But on August 28, the Department of the Interior declared that the 20,237-foot peak would once again be officially known as Denali, the name it held for thousands of years.
 
"This name change recognizes the sacred status of Denali to many Alaska Natives," Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement. "The name Denali has been official for use by the State of Alaska since 1975, but even more importantly, the mountain has been known as Denali for generations."
 
Meaning "the high one," Denali plays a central role in the creation myth of the Koyukon Athabasca's, Native Alaskans that have lived in the region for centuries, Julie Hirschfeld Davis writes for The New York Times. The mountain became known as Mount McKinley in 1896, when a gold prospector emerged from the wilderness to learn that William McKinley, a defender of the gold standard, had just been nominated as a presidential candidate. While McKinley was assassinated just six months into his first term and never set foot in Alaska, the name stuck.
 
Denali is one of the highest profile cases of official mapmakers disregarding the names given to natural landmarks by Native Americans but it is far from the only one. Here are a few of the United States' natural wonders that had names for centuries before Europeans set foot in the Americas.
 
The Grand Canyon
 
The second-most visited national park in the country and one of the United States' most iconic natural landmarks; Native American groups have continuously inhabited the Grand Canyon for almost 12,000 years, according to the National Parks Service. The canyon was called "Ongtupqa" in the Hopi language and was considered a holy site and a passageway to the afterlife.
 
Mount Rushmore
 
The cliffside that bears the likenesses of George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln changed several times during the 19th century. The Black Hills of South Dakota, where the presidential carvings loom, was originally Sioux holy land, with the mountain itself known as "The Six Grandfathers," Nick Kirkpatrick writes for The Washington Post. While the land was promised to the Sioux by an 1868 treaty, the federal government took it back in 1877. The mountain was officially named "Mount Rushmore" in 1930 after a New York lawyer who liked to hunt in the area.
 
 
The Everglades
 
Once covering over 11,000 square miles of Florida's marshland, the Everglades were home for several Native American groups, including the Calusa, Seminole and Miccosukee tribes for more than 3,000 years. Originally called Pa-hay-Okee, meaning "grassy river" in the Seminole language, the marshes were dubbed "the Everglades" by the first Englishmen to visit the region, according to the National Parks Service.
 
Mount Washington
 
The tallest mountain in the northeast, New Hampshire's Mount Washington was once called Agiocochook, or "Home of the Great Spirit," by the Abenaki people. The mountain was first referred to as Mount Washington in 1784 in honor of George Washington's military service, but was officially named by the group of mountaineers who designated New Hampshire's Presidential Range in 1820, according to the Appalachian Mountain Club.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is changing the mountain's name back to Denali important to the people of Alaska?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (117)
  • tonyw-1-ver
    9/14/2015 - 08:35 a.m.

    Mount McKinley is named after a president. The department gave its name as Denali it means "the high one". There are a lot of famous mountain in the United States, like Mount Rushmore: The cliffside that bears the likenesses of George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln .

  • gracies-nar
    9/14/2015 - 10:50 a.m.

    I think that changing the name of the mountain back to Denali is important to the people of Alaska because they want to remember it in the name they gave it. If I gave something a name but it changed I would want the name I gave it back.

  • jesusp-nar
    9/14/2015 - 10:51 a.m.

    I can't belive that some of these big stuff are in our country

  • jaxonb-nar
    9/14/2015 - 11:36 a.m.

    Mount Everest is that tall!

  • cordella-nar
    9/14/2015 - 11:37 a.m.

    The name Denali has been official for use by the State of Alaska since 1975, but even more importantly, the mountain has been known as Denali for generations.

  • morgann-nar
    9/14/2015 - 11:38 a.m.

    This article was interesting. I did not know that Mount McKinley real name is actually Denali meaning "the high one". And I didn't know that McKinley is named after a president that was assinatedon his first term;(.

  • isabelles-nar
    9/14/2015 - 11:41 a.m.

    This is very interesting. These mountains have a really cool past.

  • josen-nar
    9/14/2015 - 11:41 a.m.

    Because the Denali has Been there for a long time

  • noelv-nar
    9/14/2015 - 11:50 a.m.

    Because it was that name for a long time

  • franciscov-nar
    9/14/2015 - 11:52 a.m.

    It was a cool story. President Obama named a mountain after Demali. Giving the biggest mountain its name back, it had for a thousand years.

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